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SHL December Review - 8. HV71 and 9. Djurgården

Before the next round of the SHL starts on 5 January we’re going to take a quick look at some of the teams outside the top six, starting with HV71 in ninth and Djurgården IF in eighth and ninth position. 

The best of the rest

HV71 have the best team results from December with six wins out of eight games including four in a row at the end of the month taking them up to ninth place.

That has partly been due to having the league's top keeper in Jonas Gunnarsson (above) with a 93.57 SVS% on the season and former Djurgården IF forward Markus Ljungh scoring more than a Point Per Game this month with 9 points.

Ljungh's former team have really struggled since the groin injury to Jacob Josefson (pictured) which saw him miss eight games from the middle of November. Since then the Stockholm club have only won four of 11 games, slumped to eighth place and the former New Jersey Devil has not gained a single point despite having more than a Point Per Game before the injury. So whilst Emil Bemström rips it up at the Junior Worlds in Canada, back home the Leksing's club are in desperate need of his services before the Columbus Blue Jackets follow up on their 2017 draft choice.

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SHL December Review - 7. Brynäs IF

7. Brynäs IF

Just like last year, Brynäs have started so badly at the beginning of the season that the manager has been sacked. November 2018 saw last year's hero, Tommy Sjödin, get the boot and assistant coach, Magnus Sundqvist has stepped into the role. And the results in December can justify the change with five wins out of eight matches.

2018 Junior World Championship Silver medalist, Jesper Boqvist, continues to find the net with seven points (3G+4A) this month and finds himself in 7th place in the league's Total Points competition. Already drafted by New Jersey Devils, in November Boqvist also played his first international matches at senior level with teammate, Joel Kellman. The 24 year old Kellman (pictured) was playing the first international matches of his career, reward for being one of Brynäs' top scorers this year with 6 points in December and sitting in 9th on Total Points just one point behind 20 year old, Boqvist. 

The second best team in December, it was not just the forwards who have been on top form but also both the keepers who, if you look at this festive month alone, have staggering save percentages; that is 94.62% for the Philadelphia Flyers drafted, Joacim Eriksson and 93.37% for the 33 year old David Rautio. If they can keep this up a repeat of 2016/7, when they went all the way to the final, should almost be inevitable.

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SHL December Review - 6. Växjö Lakers

6. Vaxjö Lakers

Växjö finished the month with only three victories. But the current champions have mastered not letting games get away from them so that win or lose, it has only been by a one or two goal margin.

That means that former Anaheim Ducks/ Edmonton Oilers' Viktor Fasth is the league's best keeper when you look at Goals Against Average, with 1.67 per match.

Whilst Czech international Roman Horák leads the team on Total Points it is the tough Canadian Brendan Shinnimin who has lead in December with 7 points (5G+2A). Without the shock and awe of last year, the team from Småland are quietly getting it done and should not be underestimated in 2019.

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SHL December Review - 5. Malmö Redhawks

5. Malmö Redhawks

Four wins out of eight keeps the southernmost team in the SHL in an automatic playoff position at New Year. Dane, Frederik Storm, pictured, Swede Jesper Olofsson and defenseman Carl-Johan Lerby have been keeping their opponents busy with 5 points apiece in the month.

At the back the Redhawks have two excellent keepers but it has been assistant captain Oscar Alsenfelt who has had the most ice time over the former Dallas Stars' minder, Christopher Nihlstorp.

The beginning of the season was marred by injuries to defenseman, with six having been bought or loaned since the season started. But December has been marked by injuries to forwards with top scorer, Konstantin Komarek out with an upper body injury and only managing one point in the five games he has played. Meanwhile, top scorer from last year's Hockey Allsvenskan, Dallas Stars drafted Emil Molin has now been signed off for the rest of the season to have surgery and fully recover from a knee injury he sustained at summer training camp.

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SHL December Review - 4. Linköping

4. Linköping HC

The team that started the season almost faultlessly, and after a dip seemed to have fund themselves again in December have won five out of seven matches, including three in a row at the end of the month. As usual, they have enjoyed finding the net, even if they also tend to leak goals at the back, scoring 23 and letting in 21.

Top scorer, former NHLer and Canadian Olympic Bronze medalist, Derek Roy (above) continues to lead the club on points with 9, including 8 assists in December to joint lead the whole SHL in this category with 19. 

But the final month of the year has also seen Canadian and former AHL Star, Andrew Gordon start to find his rhythm again. He has scored nearly half of his season's points this month, including the Game Winning Goal in Sudden Death against Malmö Redhawks whilst the team's other crowd pleaser, American Olympian, Broc Little scores the game winner against Färjestad.

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SHL December Review - 3. Färjestad BK

3. Färjestad BK

The team from Karlstad have had great form over the month winning five out of eight matches, not losing at home in regulation and knocking in 21 goals in the process. So whilst they have blanked both Linköping HC and Luleå HF in 1-0 victories, their style has usually been more offensive simply trying to outscore their opponent.

Finnish back Jesse Virtanen (above) is now joint-leading the league in assists, with 19, as as being the league's top scoring defenseman with 21 points in total. He has left the goalscoring to his teammates, spreading that honour around the team with Joakim Nygård, Detroit Red Wings drafted Johan Ryno and Jesper Olofsson leading the way.

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SHL December Review - 2. Luleå HF

2. Luleå HF

The team may have struggled this month, winning only half of their eight matches, but still own a high league standing after an excellent November.

They have had a tendency to run hot or cold, twice losing without finding the net and then winning three times by three or more goals.

Whilst 29 year old American, Jack Connelly continues to lead the team overall on Total Points, it has been his experienced Swedish teammates who have kept the team in the chase and they now lie only one point behind Frölunda. Leading by example in December it has been assistant captain and 32 year old, Niklas Olausson, with 9 points (5G+4A) for the Norrbotten club (pictured above). Consistency will be the change that is needed if 2019 is be a repeat if their only Swedish championship victory in 1996.

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SHL December Review - 1. Frölunda Indians

Introduction

Whilst everyone is staring at the future stars at the Junior World Championship in Vancouver, the SHL season has been rumbling on with only a small break for the Channel One Cup at the beginning for the month.

The league has divided into two groups - the top 11 teams, separated by just 13 points and the bottom three separated by three points. It is so tight this year that goal difference may be the deciding factor between playoff or relegation come March.

Over the next few days before the next round starts we can take a look at the top six teams and one or two in the bottom half of the table. 

1. Frölunda Indians 

The team from Gothenburg have had a poor start to the month losing to 12th and 13th placed Mora IK and Örebro HK letting in 10 goals in the process to cause their netminders to slip in the overall save percentages. However, they have bounced back winning both matches in a double header with bottom of the table Timrå IK and winning 5-2 away from home at Skellefteå AIK

If the beginning of the year belonged to the undrafted American Ryan Lasch, December has been a month when Anaheim Ducks drafted, Max Friberg has impressed last leading the team with nine points (3G+6A) in eight games.

Lasch and captain Joel Lundqvist still lead the team in total points, but the American has missed a handful of matches following a injury during the CHL quarterfinal match and has slipped from top spot to eighth in Total Points. However, the team continues to show the form and strength in depth , with players like Friberg, which still makes them my favourite to win both the CHL and SHL.

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SDHL - December Review 5 - Leksand

5. Leksand IF

Leksand have had mixed results in the run up to the Christmas period, losing the two matches against Luleå but winning both in a double header against struggling SDE Hockey.

The club's American defenders, Samantha Hanson (25 yrs) and Gracen Hirschy (23 yrs) have had a productive month in front of goal. Hirschy gained 3 goals whilst Hanson accumulated 5 points (1G + 4A) includes two assists on Hirschy's goals.

Both players came to Sweden last year making the same journey from the NCAA at University of North Dakota to bit parts at Djurgården IF. This season they both chose to move to Leksand and are the team's top scoring defenders with 33 points between them in 27 games.

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SDHL - December Review 4 - HV71

4. HV71

The Jönköping club have won 4 out of 5 matches and racked up an impressive 21 goals to 7 in December. The dominance of the Finnish line mates, Riikka Välilä and Sanni Hakala cannot be understated - they either scored or assisted in 15 of the team's goals. These top two scorers for the team are currently in fifth and eighth in the league's Total Points competition. With the other six goals, American Claudia Kepler was on the ice for five of them highlighting the importance of import players in the SDHL this year. To further that, at the other end of the ice, Spanish keeper, Alba Gonzalo holds a 92.79% SVS to take second place in the netminder's competition.

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